Thai anxiety: Timothy Hallinan's Breathing Water
Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty is a different kind of author – a travel writer based in Bangkok – and Breathing Water has him serving rather more demanding editors: a shady, ultra-rich Thai patron of the tarts who grants Rafferty the right to write his life story as the result of a lost poker game, on the one hand, and on the other, competing groups of shady, ultra-rich Thais who have their own ideas of the tack the book should take and who threaten Rafferty and his wife and child if the book does not turn out right – or if he writes it at all.
That's more pressure than authors usually get, and it gives Rafferty occasion for reflections that may strike a chord with writers whether or not they echo Hallinan's own experience:
"[Rafferty] figures he'll grab a table big enough to write on, clear a space, and go back to work on his list. Maybe start playing with scenarios. He's long known that he thinks more clearly when he writes, that the act of waiting for his hand to finish forming the words slows his thought processes in a way that opens them up, allows him to see three or four possible alternative paths rather than just the most obvious one."
I'll probably have more to say soon, perhaps about Hallinan's white-knight hero and brief, grim, humorous chapter titles. For background on Poke Rafferty and his creator, read the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Timothy Hallinan here.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009